Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What Dies In Vegas, Stays In Vegas

The previous installment of the Fallout series, Fallout 3, was an excellent open-world Role-Playing Shooter (RPS). Although it suffered a far from...happy ending and most of the DLCs offered little more than even more loot and a handful of unique items, it was a game I greatly enjoyed for hours at no end and was more than happy to replay it only to follow different paths every time the story bifurcated. I for one was sure left craving for more and the Obsidian/Bethesda people were more than happy to deliver. Even so, true to Vegas mentality, they seem to have let their winnings ride...

The first thing that hits you with Fallout: New Vegas in the Mojave desert is how...familiar this new world looks like. The graphics, which were excellent two years ago, are still very good - but they are no longer cutting edge. Besides some richer shadowing and somewhat more vivid colors, if there are any major graphical improvements since Fallout 3 I failed to notice them. Having said that, I must admit that I loved the desert skies, especially during sunrises and sunsets!

Although both the story and the location are different from Fallout 3, I was happy to meet old friends: the handy PIPBOY-3000, the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skill system and the V.A.T.S. targeting aid. The gameplay seems to fit like a favorite old pair of jeans.
Character development has both acquired more depth (with the return of Traits which offer advantages but at a price) but also made easier. There are new guns and more explosive kill-shot sequences as well as more skills and perks but I felt far less pressure to complete quests to gain experience points and translate them into perks, skills and traits as the game is generous in offering different ways to accomplish this.

Notably, with all the conflicting groups and factions angling for an edge in controlling New Vegas, the story seems more byzantine than Fallout 3 and the choices one has to make now cut deeper. Note also that this is a longer game than Fallout 3.

Now some bad news. Whereas Fallout 3 had a simple disk-check, Fallout: New Vegas comes with mandatory OnLine STEAM registration and activation. If you are wondering, the game lost its fifth star neither because of its somewhat dated graphics, nor its numerous bugs or occasional crash but rather its anti-customer DRM scheme. (That was a serious misstep BETHESDA, I was disappointed). Having to activate your game OnLine means that you never actually own the game you paid for at full price. Just try to sell or gift your original version in order to replace it with the Ultimate edition and see what happens. If this does not concern you, well, you can now make an informed decision either way.

This Ultimate edition includes all of the DLCs, namely Dead Money, Honest Hearts, Old World Blues, Lonesome Road, Gunrunners's Arsenal and Courier's Stash (consisting of the Caravan, Classic, Mercenary & Tribal Packs). I almost never buy individual DLCs. If I like a game enough, I wait for the Ultimate or GameOfTheYear edition to pick them all up at a reasonable price. Now that the price has dropped considerable, so many hours of fun can be bought at a bargain price.

Try your luck.

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